LAHORE, May 9: In a rare show of unanimity, the treasury and the opposition in the Punjab Assembly jointly adopted on Wednesday two resolutions calling for restoring the Bahawalpur province and carving out a new Janoobi (south) Punjab province comprising the Seraiki belt, but excluding the three districts of the former princely state.
The National Assembly had already passed a resolution last week asking for creation of the Janoobi Punjab province.
Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal suspended all rules of business to allow Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to table the resolutions out of turn.
To the wonder of those sitting in galleries, Leader of Opposition Raja Riaz and parliamentary leaders of the PML-Q, PML-F and MMA, instead of delivering speeches, read out the same text of the resolutions one by one, although the rules of procedure do not allow it.
The PML-N managed to persuade the PPP-led opposition to agree to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s demand for setting up a national commission to examine creation of new province(s) as both the resolutions contained this call.
Rana Sanaullah said the move would eliminate ‘blackmailing’ by the PPP and PML-Q as their leadership would either agree to form a commission in accordance with the house’s demand or drop support for division of Punjab in order to pre-empt demands for division of other provinces, eg Hazara province out of Khyber pakhtunkhwa.
Some PML-N leaders said they had agreed to ‘division’ of Punjab only after realising that the party’s popularity graph was going down in the Seraiki region. They cited the party’s three successive defeats in by-elections as example.
They believe that creation of new provinces is a daunting task for the commission as a fresh discussion on division of water and other resources will ensue and the issue will take years to settle.
The PPP and PML-Q saw their success in the resolutions, arguing that they had started the campaign for “Janoobi Punjab” two years ago, but the speaker disallowed their resolutions a number of times.
The resolutions will, however, have little impact on the constitutional scheme regarding the federating units as Sub-Clause 4 of Article 239 says a bill amending geographical boundaries of a province shall either originate in the National Assembly or the Senate. And after approval of the bill with a two-thirds majority by both houses, it shall go to the provincial assembly concerned for approval by a two-thirds majority. It will then go to the president for his assent to new geographical limits of a province/carving out new provinces.
Following is the text of the resolutions:
1) “This house of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab is of the considered opinion that the people of Bahawalpur have been struggling since long for the restoration of Bahawalpur province, and that this demand is not for carving out a new province.
Rather it is about restoring a former province which is based on certain administrative, geographical, historical, constitutional and political facts.
“On the basis of these facts, this house is of the considered opinion that the former status of Bahawalpur province should be restored at once. Therefore, this house wants immediate restoration of Bahawalpur province and demands that the federal government immediately set up a national commission that shall immediately decide all important issues (judicious distribution of water and other resources, geographical demarcation and all other constitutional, legal and administrative affairs) regarding new provinces and complete the process of creation of new provinces.”
2) “This representative house of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab demands that the federal government establish Janoobi Punjab province and for giving practical shape to the creation of new province it also demands that the federal government immediately set up a national commission that shall immediately decide all important issues (judicious distribution of water and other resources, geographical demarcation and all other constitutional, legal and administrative affairs) regarding new provinces and complete the process of creation of new provinces.”